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Capital Gazette Shooting Rocks Annapolis Community

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Residents of Annapolis Maryland are still trying to make sense of an attack on their newspaper, two days ago, that left five people dead. A gunman stormed the paper's newsroom. Bobby Allyn of member station WHYY talked to residents about the role the Capital Gazette plays in the town.

BOBBY ALLYN, BYLINE: The main strip here in Annapolis, in front of the Capital Gazette newspaper, is a busy five-lane road. Large political lawn signs now end at a site of grief. There are wreaths, lit candles, balloons and reporter's notebooks. In one note, a mourner wrote, you didn't quit. You kept at it for all of us, for your community.

DARREN QUILLEN: My morning ritual to go get the paper in the morning and read it over breakfast. When we moved down here, we moved in with people who actually worked for the Capital.

ALLYN: That's Darren Quillen, who's lived in Annapolis for more than 20 years. As he paid his respects at the memorial, he echoed something many residents here said. The paper's reporters are not just local journalists but members of the community who know and talk to its residents regularly.

QUILLEN: I mean, it takes a while for this to heal - if ever.

ALLYN: The Capital Gazette has a staff of 32 and a daily circulation of around 29,000 - but to community advocates, it carries major influence. Just ask John Korin. He's a bike advocate from nearby Severna Park, Md.

JOHN KORIN: The Capital Gazette has been so supportive of our mission as they are with all the missions of all the important nonprofits here in Anne Arundel County.

ALLYN: Authorities say, gunman, Jarrod Ramos targeted the publication over a long-standing grudge against the paper's journalists who have written about Ramos pleading guilty in 2011 to harassing a woman over social media. To Korin, Ramos' actions are the latest example of the holes in the country's mental health system.

KORIN: We have got to have a rational conversation. This is an epidemic in America. We have to study it, we have to understand it, and we have to do something about it.

ALLYN: Across this capital city in coastal Maryland, it seems like everyone has worked with or know somebody at the paper like Nancy Gurtshaw, who used to work in advertising for the Capital Gazette. The shooting, she said, hit an institution dear to so many residents.

NANCY GURTSHAW: You know, you have a sense of violation because you're part of that community. And probably, the post-traumatic stress from this will be incredible.

ALLYN: But already there are signs of hope in the form of fundraisers for the families of victims and a huge outpouring of support for the paper itself, she said.

GURTSHAW: Annapolis is very small. And when it hits home like that, it's really - people come together.

ALLYN: At a Friday night candle-lit vigil, Rabbi Nochum Light said the attack on the Capital Gazette should not discourage the journalists from doing their work.

NOCHUM LIGHT: And I'm hoping that from this, the Capital Gazette will not just stay the way it was till now but will get even bigger, and better, and stronger.

ALLYN: The Capital Gazette staff has vowed to spring back from the violence. The paper, which claims its roots date back nearly 300 years, has endured a lot. And its reporters say targeted violence will not be the thing that stifles its journalism. Bobby Allyn, NPR News, Annapolis. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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